A Cairo Criminal Court judge ordered the release of former Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmy without bail Thursday after a retrial was ordered by the Court of Cassation.
Fahmy is set to be tried once again for his alleged role in signing a deal to export natural gas to Israel at less than market rates.
During Thursday’s session, Fahmy’s lawyers called for the release of their client, arguing that the 23 months he had served in pre-trial detention exceeded the legal limit under the Code of Criminal Procedures.
Last June, a criminal court sentenced Fahmy to 15 years imprisonment, while three officials at the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation were sentenced to seven years and the corporation's head, Ibrahim Saleh, received a three-year sentence for their part in the gas deal.
Meanwhile, Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company head Mohamed Ibrahim got 10 years, with fugitive businessman Hussein Salem being sentenced to 15 years in absentia.
All defendants were removed from their posts and fined a total of more than US$2.5 billion
The prosecution argued the ex-officials had approved a scheme to export gas to Israel at prices well below international standards, costing the state $714 million.
The 2005 agreement stipulated that Egypt would provide Israel with 1.7 billion cubic meters of gas annually for 15 years.
Gas supplies to Israel were halted after repeated attacks on pipes in Sinai by unknown actors since the 2011 uprising.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm